"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Reviews: Novels-in-verse with a LGBTQIA+ theme

A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 2022
Print and audio. 336 pages. Target audience: YA.
For as long as they can remember, Aaron and Oliver have only ever had each other. In a small town with few queer teenagers, let alone young trans men, they've shared milestones like coming out as trans, buying the right binders--and falling for each other.
But just as their relationship has started to blossom, Aaron moves away. Feeling adrift, separated from the one person who understands them, they seek solace in digging deep into the annals of America's past. When they discover the story of two Revolutionary War soldiers who they believe to have been trans man in love, they're inspired to pay tribute to these soldiers by adopting their names--Aaron and Oliver. As they learn, they delve further into unwritten queer stories, and they discover the transformative power of reclaiming one's place in history (Publisher).

Review: Now more than ever before I believe we need books about all types of people in our school and public libraries. If I can't relate to a book doesn't mean that book doesn't have a important message for someone else. That is the way I feel about this book about two trans individuals who are trying to make their way in the world without much support from their families and none from their communities. How dare I consider this less worthy than a book about a cis-gender young love affair? As I read a few reviews by other readers on Goodreads, I was really struck by two notions. 1. We need books that speak to everyone. The more, the better. 2. Who has been written out of history? Aaron and Oliver find solace in the story of two women who dressed as men and fought in the Revolutionary War. After the war, they lived together, telling others they were brothers. Perhaps if all peoples histories were included in our history books we would all be more accepting of people who are different than us.

My one criticism of the book has more to do with format than subject. Though this novel-in-verse employed a clever technique to establish who was speaking based on the justification of the print on the page, the speaker would often tell the other's side of the conversation by using the term "you". "You" said this or "you" did that. It got confusing. Otherwise I do recommend this book to those individuals who are questioning their sexual identity or want to understand more fully how difficult it is for an individual to express their uniqueness when it comes to genders.

Rating: 4 stars.


Nothing Burns As Bright As You
by Ashley Woodfolk
Versify. 2022
Print and audio. 288 pages. YA+

Nothing Burns as Bright as You is an impassioned story about queer love, grief, and the complexity of female friendship that will keep your heart racing, and breaking, until the very last page.

Two girls. One wild and reckless day. Years of tumultuous history unspooling like a thin, fraying string in the hours after they set a fire.They were best friends. Until they became more. Their affections grew. Until the blurry lines became dangerous.

Over the course of a single day, the depth of their past, the confusion of their present, and the unpredictability of their future is revealed. And the girls will learn that hearts, like flames, aren’t so easily tamed. It starts with a fire. How will it end? (Publisher

Review: In terms of poetry Nothing Burns Brighter Than You is a real stand out among novels-in-verse. In terms of plot and story, I had a very hard time with this book. First the two girls who have fallen in love are NOT in a healthy relationship with each other. One is pushy and dominant and asks of the other to do things and behave in a way that is counter to the way she is brought up and against her own conscience. Yet, because of the sick relationship that the girls have formed, she goes along with the plans which often involve fire. 

When I was in college I was in an unhealthy relationship with a boy who demanded that I, too, go against my own conscience and the way I was brought up. We had a very passionate but also sick relationship. When I read these girls story I was drug back in my memory to that time and to those feelings which have haunted me for years. Ashley Woodfolk, the author, said in her afterward that she wanted to write a book about queer relationship as she groped around to try to understand some of her past relationships, many of which were much more controlling than loving. This book, therefore, stands as an example of what a bad relationship looks like. I am just not sure it is a good example to follow.

Rating: 3.5 stars


Tuesday, November 29, 2022



Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore.

 Radium was the new cure-all at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was added to the American Medical Association's list of acceptable treatments for just about everything: cancer, nervous conditions, anemia, tuberculosis, toothaches, etc. It could also be added to paint which made it glow in the dark. Watch and clock-makers started using radium paint onto their dials and clock faces. Soon it became so popular to do this that radium companies had to hire hundreds of girls as dial-painters. In their orientation the girls were shown how to make a nice tip of the brush by lipping it. They would lip the brush, dip it into the radium paint, and paint over the number hundreds of times a day. "Lip-Dip-Paint" over and over. Before they started work many girls asked if the procedure was safe and they were assured it was perfectly safe, in fact they were told it would make them healthier, if anything. In addition to ingesting the tiny amounts of radium each time the girls lip the brush, no effort was made to protect the painters from airborne radium. Their skin, clothes, hair, and shoes would be covered by radium at the end of each workday and the girls actually glowed like otherworldly angels.

Not long after the girls started work at the radium company many noticed strange symptoms not common among people so young: horrible toothaches, achy joints to the point they could barely walk. The quick four block walk soon became a torturous walk for Katherine. When Hazel another dial-painter went to her dentist, Dr. Blum could believe what he was seeing: holes in the jaw bone. Several girls died. Yet when the employees went to their bosses they were assured the paint was safe and there was no connection between their mysterious illnesses and their work. What these two girls, and all the others involved, would find out is even more alarming---there is no cure for radium poisoning and no treatment for the symptoms.

The Radium Girls tells the unbelievable and true story of these women and their determination to fight back, ultimately winning in court after years and years of trying. Their win ultimately saved the lives of other people working with hazardous chemicals throughout the country. "The studies of the radium-dial workers form the basis of much of the world's present knowledge of the health risks of radioactivity. The suffering and deaths of these workers greatly increased [scientific] knowledge, ultimately saving countless lives of future generations" (341 from the YA version of the same book).

Because radium is radioactive for 1600 years, the bones of the radium girls in their graves will still set off a Geiger counter to this day. 

It has been a long time since I picked up a book that I didn't want to put down. The Radium Girls was one such book. I was mortified by the details of the medical horrors the radium girls lived through and yet I was encouraged by their resolve to do what was right not only for themselves but for others who weren't affected yet. There were hundreds and hundreds of these girls and the callousness with which the companies dealt with them was criminal. I became more and more grateful for workplace safety rules we have today because I am sure if it weren't for people like the radium girls who had to die due to negligence at work, we would be in the same boat today---the almighty dollar being more sacred than a life.

I've known a long time about the dial-painters and their radium poisoning but I had the facts all mixed up. I heard that they, out of innocence, got contaminated with radium because they painted on themselves thinking it was harmless. I supposed they thought it was fun to show up at a party and glitter and glow wearing the paint on their nails and their eyelids. I'm sure some of the girls did do that. But now I recognize I never heard the part of their story that involved ingesting radium paint through the lip-dip-paint method. I am so grateful for the impeccable research Kate Moore did to bring us the facts and then to write about them in a very readable narrative nonfiction format.

Several years ago I read the YA version of this book, The Radium Girls (Young Readers' Edition): The Scary But True Story of the Poison that Made People GLOW in the Dark. It captivated me so much when I saw the adult version was available in a book club kit from my library I thought it would be a good choice for our club to read and discuss. I was wrong. This version, which was much more detailed than the YA version, is way too long (479 pages) and too gruesome in its details. There are lots of characters/people included and it is hard to keep them all straight. Many women set the book aside before completing it. Others were so grossed out by the details of the infirmities the radium caused that is all they could focus on. My husband and I listened to the audiobook but due to time constraints we fast-forwarded through several sections, so the book didn't seem as tedious to us as to others. For this reason, I recommend you locate the YA version and read it instead of this adult version. It is essentially the same book, just shorter and bit less gruesome.

Rating: 4 stars. 


Monday, November 28, 2022

TTT: Cozy Reads


Top Ten Tuesday: Children's books I enjoyed reading with my grandson while he cozied up next to me.

Ian loves books and often when I read to him I find that he will snuggle right next me. It is a very special, cozy time for both of us.

Here is a picture of Ian listening to a book read by my mother, his Great-Grandmother.

Counting in Dog Years: Sassy Math Poems by Priscilla Tey

Wait and See by Helen Frost

Alaska is for the Birds! Fourteen Favorite Feathered Friends by Susan Ewing

Behold Our Magical Garden: Poems Fresh From a School Garden by Allan Wolf

A Library by Nikki Giovanni

I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan

At the Pond by David Elliott

Born on the Water (The 1619 Project) by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Fox in Socks: A Tongue Twister for Super Children by Dr. Seuss


Reviews: Three historical novels-in-verse

Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist by Rosita Stevens-Holsey and Terry Catasus Jennings
Yellow Jacket Books. 2022
Print. 280 pages. Target: YA.
Pauli Murray was a trailblazer who spent her life fighting for civil rights and women's rights. Writer, lawyer, activist, priest, Pauli was a champion for justice. She was a thorn in the side of white America demanding justice and equal treatment for all. She was a queer civil rights and women's rights activist before any movement advocated for either--the brilliant mind that, in 1944, conceptualized the arguments that would win Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; and in 1964, the arguments that won women equality in the workplace.

Throughout her life, she fought for the oppressed, not only through changing laws, but by using her powerful prose to influence those who could affect change. She lived by her convictions and challenged authority to demand fairness and justice regardless of the personal consequences. Without seeking acknowledgment, glory, or financial gain for what she did, Pauli Murray fought in the trenches for many of the rights we take for granted. Her goal was human rights and the dignity of life for all (Publisher).
Review: The heading for this post is inaccurate as this book is not a novel. Here Pauli Murray's life is immortalized in a biography told in verse. As I read this very thorough biography two thoughts kept running through my head. One: how is it that I, a former high school librarian, had never heard of Pauli Murray before? And two, why on earth was such a fact heavy book written in verse? These two thoughts still confound me. Let's just put it this way -- Pauli Murray was an amazing and brilliant woman whose writings were used by others to form the basis for several well-known pieces of legislation and landmark Supreme Court decisions. If you, like me, have never heard of her you must remedy that situation immediately. One of the authors, Rosie Stevens-Holsey, is Pauli Murray's niece and is proud to help promote her aunt's legacy. About the format, the biography-in-verse makes the information approachable and enjoyable, reminding me that I don't have to be reading a stodgy old textbook to find out new information. Make sure your school and public libraries have copies of this book.

Rating: 5 stars

The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R.M. Romero
Peachtree Publishing. 2022.
Print and audio. 378 pages. Target: 8th-12th grade.
Sent to stay with her aunt in Prague and witness the humble life of an artist, Ilana Lopez—a biracial Jewish girl—finds herself torn between her dream of becoming a violinist and her immigrant parents’ desire for her to pursue a more stable career.

When she discovers a forgotten Jewish cemetery behind her aunt’s cottage, she meets the ghost of a kindhearted boy named Benjamin, who died over a century ago. As Ilana restores Benjamin’s grave, he introduces her to the enchanted side of Prague, where ghosts walk the streets and their kisses have warmth.

But Benjamin isn't the only one interested in Ilana. Rudolph Wassermann, a man with no shadow, has become fascinated with her and the music she plays. He offers to share his magic with her.

With spellbinding verse prose, R.M. Romero channels the spirit of myth into a brilliantly original tale, inspired by her experiences restoring Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe (Publisher).
Review: Right before COVID hit the world, my husband and I were in Prague. While there we visited the Pinkas Synagogue and its adjoining Jewish cemetery. Nearly all of Prague's Jews were rounded up and killed in the Holocaust. This particular synagogue now stands as a reminder of those 78,000 souls lost their lives because of their faith in Czech Republic. Their names are written out on all the walls of the synagogue. The cemetery is a seemingly crowded place with tombstones on top of tombstones. The Jews were forced to bury their dead on top of each other because the city would not allow the congregation to expand the footprint of the cemetery.
Though The Ghosts of Rose Hill is not an explicit historical novel it does include information about Pinkas cemetery and other Jewish cemeteries in the city of Prague which have fallen into disrepair due to the fact that so few Jews now live in the area. The book also covers information about the 1918 Flu Pandemic which killed Benjamin, one of the ghosts in this story.
There is a decidedly creepy vibe about the story. Magic shimmers in the background of the tale and evil makes itself known. In fact, Ilana must fight for her life and for Benjamin's release from his captor, making the story quite exciting in places.  I'm sure that students who enjoy reading supernatural/fantasy novels will find a lot to like in The Ghosts of Rose Hill.
Rating: 3 stars. 

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood with Greg Dawson
HarperCollinsChildren's Division. 2022.
Audio and print. 339 pages.Target: Middle grades.
The moving true story of how young Ukrainian Jewish piano prodigies Zhanna (alias "Anna") and her sister Frina outplayed their pursuers while hiding in plain sight during the Holocaust. A middle grade nonfiction novel-in-verse by author Susan Hood with Greg Dawson (Zhanna's son).

When the Germans invade Ukraine, Zhanna, a young Jewish girl, must leave behind her friends, her freedom, and her promising musical future at the world's top conservatory. With no time to say goodbye, Zhanna, her sister Frina, and their entire family are removed from their home by the Nazis and forced on a long, cold, death march. When a guard turns a blind eye, Zhanna flees with nothing more than her musical talent, her beloved sheet music, and her father's final plea: "I don't care what you do. Just live." (Publisher)

Includes extensive back matter with original letters and photographs, additional information, and materials for further reading.

Review: Zhanna and Frina were young piano prodigies and very famous in their region of Ukraine. They were also Jews. When the Nazi's came calling they had little time to do much else than submit to them. But when given a chance to escape both girls ran, with their father's blessing. Their parents and most of their relatives were killed but the two sisters survived by changing their names and returning to the music which sustained them during the war. It is an incredible story of survival.

My husband and I listened to the audio version of the book together. Once we adjusted to the simplistic writing style, perfect for younger readers, we became quite captivated by Zhanna's story, which she had divulged to her family until her granddaughter, Aimee, asked for details of her life to complete a middle school assignment. This book is an extension of that project. 

The book includes extensive back matter with original letters and photographs and additional family information to round out the story. Both my husband and I felt that the afterward made the whole story much richer by filling in details. We also discussed how important it is to read stories like this to round out what we know about the Holocaust and the Jewish experience during World War II.
Rating: 4 stars.  


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Reviews: Four very different poetry books

Walking Gentry Home: A Memoir of My Foremothers in Verse by Alora Young
Penguin/Random House, 2022
Print. 212 pages. Audience: YA-Adult.

Walking Gentry Home tells the story of Alora Young's ancestors, from the unnamed women forgotten by the historical record but brought to life through Young's imagination; to Amy, the first of Young's foremothers to arrive in Tennessee, buried in an unmarked grave, unlike the white man who enslaved her and fathered her child; through Young's great-grandmother Gentry, unhappily married at fourteen; to her own mother, the teenage beauty queen rejected by her white neighbors; down to Young in the present day as she leaves childhood behind and becomes a young woman.

The lives of these girls and women come together to form a unique American epic in verse, one that speaks of generational curses, coming of age, homes and small towns, fleeting loves and lasting consequences, and the brutal and ever-present legacy of slavery in our nation's psyche. Each poem is a story in verse, and together they form a heart-wrenching and inspiring family saga of girls and women connected through blood and history.

Informed by archival research, the last will and testament of an enslaver, formal interviews, family lore, and even a DNA test, Walking Gentry Home gives voice to those too often muted in America: Black girls and women (Publisher).

Review: Alora Young has accomplished the almost impossible task of tracing her family lineage back seven or eight generations and in the process brings her foremothers to life through her poetry. Starting with Amy Coleman, a slave forced to have sex and bear the child of her enslaver, Harold Anderson. Almost all of her foremothers married young due to an unintended pregnancy, Young refers to this as her family's curse. As the poems drew closer in time and finally about herself I found more to relate to, or appreciated them more for how they could inform me of what life is like for Black women past and present. Many of the poems were hard to read for the darkness of the topics. Others were a joy to read for the family connections.

This poetry collection or memoir-in-verse does not fit neatly into a category. Each poem is written as a stand alone, yet taken as a whole all the poems form a story. Alora Young is a college student and the 2021 Youth Poet Laureate for the Southern United States. Because the author is young herself, it is supposed that the story would appeal to young adults, but I have a hard time imagining any teenagers who would pick up this collection. I think the target audience is really adults.

Rating: 4 stars.


The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman
Candlewick Press, 2022.
Print. 72 pages. Audience: Upper Elementary students
The classic nursery rhymes we know and love—upside-down, backward, in gibberish, and fresh out of bounds—as only Jon Scieszka could stage them (Publisher). 
Review: My sister, who was an Elementary reading teacher for most of her career in education, was more delighted with this book than I was, and I was thrilled with it. She kept exclaiming how kids don't know or understand Mother Goose these days, but this book would be a perfect manual for the types of activities that fourth or fifth grade teachers use to motivate and excite their students. "One by one, cherished nursery rhymes—from “Humpty Dumpty” to “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “Jack Be Nimble” to “Mother Hubbard”—fall prey to sly subversion as master of fracture Jon Scieszka and illustrator Julia Rothman refashion them into comics strips, errant book reports, anagrams, and manic mash-ups." Pure fun and a delight to read and experience.
Rating: 5 stars.

Ice Cycle: Poems About the Life of Ice by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Jieting Chen
Millbrook Press, 2022.
Print. Unpaged. Audience: Grades 1-4
A beautiful collaboration between verse and science. Brief poems and ethereal illustrations introduce readers to the many different types of ice on land and at sea. Fascinating back matter provides additional information about water as a solid, liquid, and gas, as well as more details about the unique forms of ice mentioned in the poems. Celebrate winter with this evocative and atmospheric exploration of ice! (Publisher)
Review: A few winters ago as I was walking the dog around the neighborhood I was stopped short by a unique ice formation seeming to come up from the earth like spikes. I'd never seen anything like it before. Now, after reading Ice Cycle I now know what I was looking at are called ice needles. A goal from my bucket list is to visit Yosemite National Park in the early spring or late winter when frazzle ice flows down the river. These types of books are so fun, combining poetry, information, and science. If you have a young budding scientist, like I do, look for this at your public library and request they buy it for the library collection if they don't have it. It would be a perfect book to read during the winter months when running into the different types of ice in nature is possible.

4 stars.


Book of Questions/Libro De Las Preguntas by Pablo Neruda, illustrated by Paloma Valdivia, translated from Spanish by Sara Lissa Paulson
Enchanted Lion Books. 2022.
Print. Unpaged. Target: All ages.

This bilingual Spanish-English edition is the first illustrated selection of questions, 60 in all, from Pablo Neruda's original poem (74 poems asking 316 questions) The Book of Questions, published in 1973. Holding the wonder and mystery of childhood and the experience and knowing that come with growing up, these questions are by turns lyrical, strange, surreal, spiritual, historical and political. They foreground the natural world, and their curiosity transcends all logic; and because they are paradoxes and riddles that embrace the limits of our ability to know, they engage with human freedom in the deepest way, removing the burden and constraint that somehow, we are meant to have answers to every question. Gorgeously, cosmically illustrated by Paloma Valdivia. So clearly rooted in Chilean landscapes as they are, the questions are revealed as a communion with nature and its mysteries (Publisher).
Review: Each of the 70 questions in this collection of questions come from the originals by Neruda, though only one is presented intact from the original. The other questions, presented in couplets, are drawn from the original, arranged loosely in thematic groups. I loved the illustrations and the unique presentation but admit to feeling disappointed with the poems themselves. Perhaps I should seek out the original for comparison.

Rating: 4 stars.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Sunday Salon: Fiasco (?) Edition

Oregon Coast, November 2022


Weather: Cold. There was frost on the fallen leaves in the yard this morning when we got up. Yesterday it poured rain almost the whole drive home from Eugene... and I mean, POURED. It was definitely a dark and stormy night.


Thanksgiving Fiasco?  Our holiday celebration and gathering did not unfold the way we thought it would. In fact, at one point we all started using the word "fiasco" to describe it. I'll let you be the judge. Here are the details:

  • Back in October when my sisters, mom, and I started making Thanksgiving plans for our annual gathering in Eugene (where Mom lives) we realized a lot of people were likely to attend -- possibly as many as 31. The list included a niece and her family flying in from Germany (her husband has never experienced a Thanksgiving feast before), a sister and her husband flying in from Idaho, my daughter and her family and a cousin and her son driving down from Washington State, a niece and her husband and dog coming up from California, and many others. No one has a house large enough to accommodate that many people comfortably, so we started playing around with the idea of holding the gathering at Mom's church where there would be plenty of room to spread out and a play structure and nursery to satisfy the needs of the young children. That seemed like a good solution and arrangements were made with the church. Our day would be different and less intimate than past years but we would all fit and we could take advantage of the extra space to set up board games to keep people busy while the food cooked.
  • Feeling good about our plan, we set up a Google spreadsheet for everyone to sign up for the food/beverages they would contribute. All the basics were covered but people also volunteered to bring lots of extra/exotic dishes: pistachio carrots, stuffed mushrooms, salmon dip, and at least six different pies. My mouth watered just thinking about these special dishes.
  • In early November we learned that the Idaho brother-in-law wouldn't be able to attend because the date for his foot surgery was moved up a few days and he would not be able to travel. Next, one nephew and his family opted out because his partner's family were coming to sup at their house for the first time in several years. The number of likely attenders just dropped to 24-25, still too many for a home. First crack.
  • We drove down to Eugene from our home in Washington on Nov. 17th. We had a memorial service and a football game to attend last weekend, so we opted for a short vacation on the Oregon Coast* instead of driving home and back before Thanksgiving. We returned to Eugene on Tuesday to help welcome family members arriving from points north, south, and east. The day prior, my mother learned that the church's boiler (Yes, they still have a boiler not a furnace) wasn't working properly and it would be too cold in the church for a day-long event. My siblings quickly made a new plan to split the day between Mom's and my sister's homes, nine miles apart. One house for hors d'oeuvres and games, the other for cooking and eating our Thanksgiving dinner. My brother and brother-in-law picked up tables and chairs from the church to divide up between the houses. We were disappointed about the change of plan but we were being flexible. Second crack.
  • *Not really part of the fiasco, but our dog got pretty sick while we were in Eugene and later at the Oregon Coast, with a bad upset tummy and listlessness. Looking back, it seemed par for the course.
  • Our niece and her family flew in from Germany on Monday. My brother and sister-in-law arrived from California in time to help welcome them. They'd been traveling for 20+ hours and went to bed almost immediately at my sister's home where they were bunking. The next day we returned from the Oregon Coast, a nephew from L.A. flew in, one of our daughters drove down from Washington and we all helped welcome the international family eager to meet their 6-month-old boy. Twelve of us gathered to give lots of hugs and happy greetings and enjoyed takeout Mexican food for dinner together. The German family seemed bedraggled and tired but we chalked it up to jet lag. The next morning, Wednesday, they learned it was something worse --- COVID. Crack!
  • As soon as we learned this terrible news, my siblings and I gathered with our spouses and mother to map out a new plan. We decided the meal could still proceed if our niece sequestered herself upstairs while we gathered downstairs. Maybe she could stand at the top of the stairs holding up her son so we could see him, which was better then nothing. Telephone calls needed to be made to those who were still en route. After all, twelve of us were now exposed and we wanted to make sure people knew what lay ahead. With each phone call our plan for the day changed. Our daughter and her family, including our two grandsons, decided to turn around after two hours on the road and return home. They have young kids who are vaccinated but not boosted. Our cousin and her son proceeded to her parent's home where they all decided to stay put. Even though our California niece and her husband were already in Eugene, they hadn't been exposed to the virus on Tuesday so they, too, decided to stay away. By the end of the day my brother and his wife decided they needed to just take their daughter, son-in-law, and new grandchild home to California, leaving before the Thanksgiving meal. * We were in free fall.
  • *The cousins, the eight who were in Eugene at the time, decided that they wanted to be together before the family returned to California so they devised a plan to meet outside, even though it was dark and cold, on Wednesday evening. They figured with fresh air and masks they should be safe from the virus. Walking off the porch to join the group, our daughter misjudged the step, twisted her ankle and fell. She sustained a bad sprain. She spent the rest of the time in Eugene with ice packs, elevating her foot in pain while Don and I had to put together the ingredients for the crazy corn casserole and Frog Eye Salad she volunteered to bring to the meal. The absurdity of the situation continues on a personal level.
  • While all this was happening Mom popped up and put the secondary turkey into the oven. We needed the extra bird when we expected 31 people for dinner, but now it would be available for sandwiches the following day. She also whipped up a pecan pie and -- with so much going on -- she forgot about the pie and overcooked it. Later she took the turkey out of the oven, setting it aside for a while while we ate Chinese take-out for Thanksgiving eve dinner. At that point my brother got up to slice the turkey so he and his family could eat turkey sandwiches during their drive back to California the next day. To all our horror, the turkey was only partially cooked. The whole interior was raw. Apparently Mom accidentally turned off the oven when she was dealing with the pie. Even though she put the bird back in the oven to finish cooking, we all deemed it unsafe for human consumption. Everything seemed  ludicrous now.
  • Instead of 31 24 family members gathering for a meal. We were down to 12 10 after our California niece and hubby decided that they couldn't join us since no one can wear a mask while eating. Fortunately, she dropped off her pie and my brother made a pie before he left for his home. Otherwise, between the ten of us left we had all the food necessary for a traditional Thanksgiving meal without any of the hoped-for special dishes like Brussels sprouts or salmon dip. We sat down to our Thanksgiving dinner, all comfortably fitting at the dining room table. No kids' table off to the side or people sitting at multiple tables or jockeying back and forth between two houses. The meal ended up being quite delicious and surprisingly calm. We told jokes and favorite family stories. We read "How to cook a turkey" advice from our grandson and others in his kindergarten class. We laughed. 
  • After the meal we all went into the living room. We all fit in one room and were able to each find a place to sit. First, we listened to an old classic from NPR's 'This American Life with Ira Glass' on the topic of fiascos. Most of us had heard it before but we all laughed and cried, thinking of the fiasco or near fiasco we were living through at the moment. (Click on the link here. It is long, 20 minutes, but so funny.) After pie, we played the game Wavelength which involves one person attempting to give a clue the others could decipher where on a continuum the clue would fall (e.g., on a scale of useless to useful; messy food to neat food) with the dial being randomly set at some point on the scale. Everyone participated. Our answers and discussion got pretty humorous, often with the discussion breaking along generational lines. On the last round, our niece from Seattle used the 'smiley face with teeth' emoji 😀as her clue for a point on the scale of sexy to not sexy. We all debated it and realized we weren't all talking about the same emoji so she sent us a copy of what she was thinking on our phones. Bedlam ensued with more emojis populating our phones as others gave sillier and sillier examples. I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face. I couldn't even see my phone without propping open my eyes. After our good laugh, we all spent a moment reflecting on our weird fiasco of a holiday gathering, eventually deciding it ended up being a much better Thanksgiving Day than any of us expected considering how circumstances devolved from our original plans.
  • After the evening, as I reflected upon the day and week, I had a deep sense of thankfulness. I was thankful for--
    • My family. Even though we all didn't eat together most of us did have moments together prior/after Thursday. On the actual day ten of us gathered and it wasn't the ten one would expect -- there was my sister without her husband, a nephew without his parents, a niece without her brothers. and Mom without Dad. Yet, we had a delightful day. Family love. 💖
    • Mom. She is 93-years-old and still lives alone, attends football games with other family football fans, makes pie, and other delicious foods for our gatherings. The under-cooked turkey was a fluke, for sure.
    • Blessings. The day may not have unfolded as we planned/hoped but we had a warm, beautiful home where we could gather. We had plenty of food. We all had places to sleep, including the wonderful AirB&B owned by a friend of my sister, where five of us stayed. There was laughter and love. We are blessed.
    • In the end, I think we all agreed that Thanksgiving 2022 wasn't a fiasco at all.

Speaking of the Oregon Coast: We experienced two extremes. One day which was unbelievably lovely, sunny, warm, and grand. We took a long, scenic walk along the coast. The next day a storm moved in, the sky and the ocean were similar colors of gray and the wind blew the rain sideways. We did all our ocean viewing from the confines of the car that day. (See photos above and below.)

What I've read since Nov. 13th:

  • Ten Cybils Poetry/Novels-in-Verse. You can see a list of the books I read on Goodreads. I have five physical books left to go and hope to get access to five more from the publishers to complete the task of reading the 61 nominated books by mid-December. Feeling good about my progress. One of the books, The Hope of Elephants, I checked out from the Springfield Public Library on my sister's card. I had two days to read it and spent the last hour in Eugene speed-reading it. I found it very heartbreaking but also life-affirming. Watch for my reviews this week for all these books.
  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. This was a book club selection. Don and I listened to the audiobook. It is a very disturbing true story about the girls who painted radium onto watch faces back in the 1920s and what happened to their health. 4 stars.
  • Poetry RX: How 50 Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy to Your Life by Norman Rosenthal, M.D.  Audiobook. 4 stars.

What I'm currently reading:

  • A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow. A Cybils novel- in-verse about two trans boys in a love relationship. Audiobook and print. 60%.
  • Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young. A Cybils memoir-in-verse. The author writes poems to honor her foremothers. Print. 90%.
  • The Soul of the Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. A book club selection. Audiobook. 12%.
  • The Places We Sleep by Caroline Brooks DuBois. A Cybils novel-in-verse. E-book. 10%.

The Oregon Coast near Yachats, November 21, 2022.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

TTT: Thanksgiving Special


Top Ten Tuesday: Books/Stories I'd Like to Read that Contain a Thanksgiving Theme

This week I am highlighting books/stories I haven't read but want to. All of them include a Thanksgiving scene. If you've read any of these let me know what you thought of it.


The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler -- Long on my TBR because I enjoyed the movie so much, this one showed up on all the lists of books which include a Thanksgiving meal. (198

The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote -- a short story by the famous writer of In Cold Blood. This story is pulled from his own life. 

Menus: A Book for Your Meals and Memories by Jacques Pepin -- Created by a chef whose journal not only notes his menus but includes illustrations of his feasts. Oprah included this on her favorite things list last year.

Ankle Soup: A Thanksgiving Story by Maureen Sullivan -- A children's book told from the perspective of the French bulldog who walks around New York and experiences the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell -- Otsaliheliga is a word used by the Cherokee Nation as a reminder to be grateful for their blessings and to reflect on their struggles. This is another children's book.

The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay -- I haven't read anything by this author yet but I do enjoy reading essays, especially those which focus on the positive.

Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes -- A poetry book by the famed poet Nikki Grimes. This is a children's book which I'm sure adults should enjoy, too.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace -- Isn't it time we all quit telling ourselves the old stories which are wrong?

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney -- This book has a very memorable family and face it, holidays are often times of great dysfunction.

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet -- It is on my bucket list to actually attend a Macy's parade in person some day. After reading this I should know more about what it takes to get those big balloons in the air.



Monday, November 14, 2022

TTT: Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books (Sweet/cute/poignant moments in books that give me warm-fuzzies or healed my soul.)

I don't read very much romance fiction so I had to expand the prompt to include books which helped heal my soul. I may have uttered a sigh, rather than an aww, but you know what I mean.



1. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

She laughed when there was no joke. She danced when there was no music.
She had no friends, yet she was the friendliest person in school.
In her answers in class, she often spoke of sea horses and stars, but she did not know what a football was... She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a cork board like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.

This book. This story. It touched my soul like no others.



2. Persuasion by Jane Austen

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope...I have loved none but you.”

I love something in all of Jane Austen's books but this line "I am half agony, half hope" is so 'aww' worthy.



3. A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

I love the mental picture this quote evokes of the two bike riders as a metaphor for a healthy relationship.



4.  The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

“and as she watched the father smile, she caught another bewitching way in which the son might have come to resemble him.” 

Something about this story, which revolves around a young boy whose life ends unexpectedly, just heals my soul for it's message of how important human connections are for a happy life. 



5. Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Only after I had learned those boundaries and generalities of my grief was I able to venture further into the mountains and valleys, the peaks and troughs of my despair. And as I traversed them-breathing a sigh of relief thinking that I'd conquered the worst of it-only then would I finally arrive at the truth about loss, the part no one ever warns you about: that grief is a city all of its own, built high on a hill and surrounded by stone walls. It is a fortress that you will inhabit for the rest of your life, walking its dead-end roads forever. The trick is to stop trying to escape and, instead, to make yourself at home.

I'd lost my father a year before I read this book. This quote about grief profoundly affected me and touched that part of my soul that needed permission to let my grief settle in and become incorporated in my life. 



5. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Everything about this book screams AWW! It is so precious and wise.



6. The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

The world has given you the eyes to see the beauty of its mountains and rivers, and the ears to hear the music of its wind and sea, and the voice you need to tell it. We books are evidence that this is so. We are here to help you.

There is such pain and loneliness in this book. But also so much hope and healing. 



7. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

“She kept looking away then back to me, as though at a nice surprise. This was maybe best of all. I never once expected to be someone’s nice surprise.”

So many feelings raced through me while I read this funny, sweet book where a man finally accepts himself and finds his tribe along the way.  



8. When We Collided by Emery Lord

Just because a relationship ends doesn't mean we should diminish it in our memory.



Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunday Salon -- a wrap up of the week

Beautiful blue skies. Day time temperatures in the 40s. This morning when we drove out of Eugene it was foggy. Yesterday evening at the football game at Auzten Stadium it was chilly, in the mid 30s. (It matched our team's performance. Sigh.)

Wrapping up this past week: When I sat down at Bible Study on Thursday morning two of my friends thanked me for my blog and my positive predictions about the then upcoming midterm elections. Of course I didn't think up any of my predictions, I just reported information I had found by people who know much more than me about polling and tricks that campaigns do to make people think, for example, a red wave was coming. Well, now we know no red wave arrived at all. It was more like mid-cycle spotting. In fact, Biden fared better than any Democratic president in their first midterms since JFK.  We haven’t done this well in 60 years. Don’t believe me?  Check it out.

  • When Nevada's Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto's race was called for her last night, control of the Senate remained in the Democrats' hands. Right now the count is 50 D - 49 R but there is one more race which is heading toward a run-off in December in Georgia. (FiveThirtyEight)
  • The House of Representatives is still up for grabs. In fact, Dems have a possible path to retain control of that body. For a little fun analysis, check out this post on Daily Kos.
  • The Democratic party's coalition stayed intact dominated by white college-educated folks, Black voters overwhelmingly (about 85 percent) backed Democrats, as did a majority of Asian (about 63 percent) and Latino (60 percent) voters. The party won a big chunk of White voters (40 percent) and even White voters without college degrees (32 percent). Liberal voters (90 percent), of course, preferred Democrats, but so did moderates (55 percent). (WaPo)
  • Six of the seven Republican Governor candidates who denied that Biden won in 2020 lost their races. The last, Kari Lake in Arizona, is behind by 36,000 votes but the race has not been called yet.
  • Democrats make history with state level gains. Democrats quietly won and defended majorities in state legislatures across the country, weakening GOP power on issues at the heart of the national political debate. This is the first time that the party in power hasn't lost a state legislative chamber since 1934. (Axios)
  • Young people helped decide critical races. In Michigan, the early youth vote was up 207 percent from 2018. In Pennsylvania, up 318 percent. In Wisconsin, up 360 percent. Young people were a critical force in holding back a “red wave.” They supported Democratic House candidates by 62 percent to 35 percent. (Robert Reich)

  • Secretary of State GOP election-deniers all lost: (Left to right) Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada.

  • Every single GOP election denier who ran for Secretary of State promising to mess with their state's 2024 elections has lost. Every single one! — in a telling sign of Donald Trump’s waning influence. (Vice)
  • This is fun. Watching the mash-up on Chris Hayes' show on MSNBC of Fox News and other sources bragging about the upcoming red wave that never materialized. I wonder when it hit them that they were wrong, wrong, wronger than wrong?

  • One more thing about politics. This week has caused many to stop and reflect on why the GOP didn't have their predicted red wave. My guess is that it is a combination of a lot of things they support -- abortion bans, climate change denial, guns! guns! guns!, voting restrictions, bad candidates, the threat to democracy. I think it is one more thing, too -- voters looked at the Republican candidates and their supporters and didn't like what they saw. "Hard-core MAGA extremism is a minority position in much of the country. There are more Americans repelled by the hate and conspiracism of MAGAism than drawn to it" (David Corn).

Books: I read very little past week compared to my previous weeks prior preparing for Cybils judging. I guess I was pretty distracted by the election, our trip to Oregon, and family stuff.

  • Books I did finish:
    • Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Butler by Ibi Zoboi. Cybils. 4 stars.
    • Odder by Katherine Applegate. Cybils. 4 stars.
    • Nothing Burns As Bright As You by Ashley Woodfolk. Cybils. 4 stars.
    • Moonwalking by Zetta Elliott. Cybils. 3 stars.
  • Books I'm currently reading:
    • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. A book club selection. 95% complete. Audio.
    • The Ghosts of Rose Hill by R. M. Romero. Cybils. 25% complete. Audio.
    • Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist by Terry C. Jennings. Cybils. 33% complete. Print.

For a few laughs today: Snoop Dog narrating Plizzanet Earth Iguanas v Snakes